How to Become a CBT Therapist

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Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that encompasses several different approaches, including cognitive therapy, dialectic behavior therapy and rational emotive behavior therapy. Therapists who use this approach emphasize the role our thoughts and behaviors play in our lives. To become a CBT therapist, you must study at the graduate level and train under someone who specializes in this therapy. You can get certified from the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, an organization that brings standards and uniformity to the field.

Complete a bachelor's degree program in psychology, social work, counseling or related field. Take any electives offered that focus on cognitive-behavioral therapy or cognition and behavior in general. Participate in volunteer research at one of your professors' laboratories.

Ask your undergraduate professors for references to graduate programs that emphasize the cognitive-behavioral therapy approach. Look through the most recent edition of the APA's "Graduate Study in Psychology" guide if you're looking for an APA-accredited psychology program. Read program descriptions to determine training emphases. Try to find one that offers cognitive and behavioral therapy training. For example, Eastern Michigan University, Caldwell College and Long Island University all have programs that emphasize this approach or have faculty, as of publication, that specialize in CBT therapy.

Complete the master's or doctoral program in psychology, social work, counseling or related field. Look for a post-doctoral or internship training site which has clinicians or psychologists that use the CBT treatment modality or a similar approach.

Seek employment within a mental health facility or private practice. Provide psychological and therapeutic services to clients and apply CBT principles to each case. Contact the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists to obtain case supervision and continue this practice for six years to meet the requirements for NACBT certification.

Complete one of the certification programs recognized by the NACBT, such as the Rational Living Therapy or Cognitive Therapy program.

Obtain three letters of recommendation from mental health professionals who are familiar with your cognitive-behavioral skills and use of the therapy. These can be from supervisors or even colleagues who can verify your experience.

Download the "Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist" application from the NACBT or request one to be sent to you from the Association. Send your application along with the required fee and all supporting materials to the NACBT. Wait for the Association to accept your application and certify you as a cognitive-behavioral therapist.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can search for psychology internship and post-doctoral training opportunities in the directory online at the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers' (APPIC) website.
  • If you want to get licensed as a practicing psychologist, check the requirements of your state's board of psychology before you apply to graduate schools to determine if you must attend an APA-accredited program.

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